Monday, December 10, 2012

Think your teen is tech savvy because they spend hours on the computer? Think Again!

There is a false belief amongst parents, where they think their children must be tech savvy because they spend hours on the Computer, Internet and Smartphone. Sure they may be able to navigate their way on how to download apps, upload pictures, post video's to YouTube and write Twitter, Facebook and Blog posts, but if this is all they are doing, parents need to delve in and pay close attention.

Yes, it is true! With computers and the internet playing such a fundamental role in pretty much every aspect of our lives, especially within the work world, teens need to be digitally literate. However, spending hours upon hours on social networking sites does not mean teens are tech savvy. In fact, if this is all they are doing, chances are their technology addiction is having an adverse affect on their digital skills, education, literacy, and their overall developmental growth.

Today, approximately 80% of teens are living in the 'Cyber Bubble', and there are serious risks to this lifestyle. The fact is, the average teen in North America spends 8 hours per day being digitally connected with 2-3 hours per day on social networking sites and sending 80-100 texts per day to their friends.

So why should parents, guardians and educators be concerned? The bottom line is, if teens are hyper-connected they are likely experiencing the adverse affects of being trapped in the Cyber-bubble:

  1. The Cyber-bubble warps a young person, making him/her less able to interact in the real-word. They hone their texting skills but may not learn the art of face-to-face conversation.  
  2. Texting has resulted in 'Dummy Down' language: Teens tend to pick up bad grammar habits with simple syntax, phonetic spelling, and low diction, which is crossing over into their school work and education.  
  3. The Cyber-culture gives rise to a relentless focus on the presentation of self in images and sound bites before the 'she' or 'he' has a chance of fully developing. 
  4. Teens pretend to be impressed with things to fit in, creating a persona they think will be liked versus presenting their real selves. 
  5. Over connection traps teens in a bubble. The ability to connect with any girl or boy their same-age at any moment of the day deprives them from any break, any breather, and any alternative perspectives. 
  6. Teens are hyberconnected to their peers, while disconnecting from themselves. Teens need time to reflect on who they are and want to become; they need chill time. Technology Addiction steals down time from teens with their phone vibrating constantly. 
  7. Spending too much time online generally means teens are neglecting their studies, practice, and chores, resulting in poor performance. 
  8. Sleep Deprivation is on the rise while impacting attitudes and performance. Many teens are online late at night resulting in sleep deprivation, therefore they have a lack of focus and concentration at school and are super-sensitive. 
  9. Girl-world / teen drama tends to cross from school-to-online and vice versa. 
  10. Cyber-bullying is on the rise and has become a serious epidemic. There is nothing new to teens, especially girls, being mean. What's new is the technology that creates the 24/7 relentless attacking that has the potential to reach literally millions of people in hitting the 'enter' or 'send' buttons. 
  11. Self objectifying! Teens, particularly girls, are focusing on how they look versus who they are, because they see themselves as an object first and a person second. Teens are choosing to evaluate themselves based on their appearance because they believe this is how others adjudicate them.  
  12. Sexting – It ruins reputations. Teen girls, more so then teen boys, sext. In fact 20% of teenage girls in North America have committed the act of sexting, and that number is rising. Given the amount of pornography on the internet, and the depiction of women and girls as sex objects in mainstream media, many teen girls think this is what boys want. The reality is, if a teen takes a nude picture of themselves, they could be charged with the production of child pornography. If they, or anyone else, forwards that picture, they can be charged with the distribution of child pornography. Girls that sext or expose themselves on the Internet put themselves at serious risk for sexual abuse and cyber-bullying. 

It is important for parents to pay close attention to their teens use of smartphone technology, social media and the Internet. While teens are experiencing the many benefits each of these have to offer, they are also being exposed to the dangers and risks. As parents, we need to teach our children to set boundaries and limits in their use of technology. We need to education them on proper and appropriate use, how to play safe, and how to be a good cyber friend and cyber citizen.

So if your teen is spending hours on end on their computer, smartphone and the Internet, we strongly recommend you become a Computer Cop and find out exactly what they are doing, and what activities they are engaging in. If you have concerns of their technology use and habits, it may be time to establish Computer, Internet & Smartphone Rules, which includes you and your teen signing an Internet & Smartphone Usage Agreement. Breaking the rules and violating the agreement results in loss of use and privilege of using these technologies.

You must establish within your teen that the Computer, Smartphone and Internet is a privilege, not a right!  They have the responsibility in using these technologies properly and appropriately. Be sure to set the stage by being a good example and practicing what you preach because more often than not, teens model the behavior of adults, more so when that adult is their parent(s).

Author: Nancy Beth Guptill,Founder of Sweet Spot Marketing Canada
Digital Marketing & Social Media Training Consultant / Women & Girl Thought Leadership
Twitter: @SweetMarketing